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Top of the Class

05 November 2010

An innovative partnership between Croydon Council and Eden Foodservice has transformed the schools catering service and increased the take up of nutritious and sustainably sourced school meals

EDEN FOODSERVICE, part of Initial Facilities Services, provides catering services to 100 primary, secondary and special schools in the Croydon area, employing around 420 people.
Working closely with Croydon Council, its schools and governors, Eden Foodservice has been able to achieve much more than simply providing pupils with a nutritious, well-balanced diet. By feeding them information, as well as fuel, the company is playing its part in encouraging an entire generation to turn their eating habits into an altogether healthier direction.
Allyson Lloyd, Corporate Catering Manager, Croydon Council said: “Eden Foodservice are partners working with Croydon Council and as such it is important that Eden and the Council work together to ensure that the very best service is provided to schools and the pupils who attend.”
The key highlights to date have included:
● Year-on-year growth of 5.1 percent in the uptake of school meals in primary schools
● Development and implementation of an online payment scheme that now collects more than £3.4m during each school year
● The award of the Food for Life Partnership Silver Catering Mark and Red Tractor Status across all primary and special schools within the contract.
●In a recent parental survey undertaken by the Food in Schools team, 72 percent of parents said that they think the service is good/excellent.
Eden Foodservice has been working in partnership with Croydon Council
since 2002, serving school meals in 88 primary schools, six secondary schools and six special schools totalling 31,000 pupils. Each week, it serves up to 60,000 meals in primary schools and 7,500 meals in secondary schools. The primary schools have seen a year-onyear growth in uptake of 5.1 percent, with 42.9 percent of pupils now eating school meals.
As Lloyd explained, “Over the past eight years Croydon Council and Eden Foodservice have developed an open and transparent partnership which has helped transform meals to schools within the central contract. Eden’s flexible approach has ensured that
Croydon Council has been able to introduce a range of service initiatives, which meet the needs of individual schools. Menu development is a cornerstone of the work undertaken, with schools in the contract receiving a fully fresh menu which includes high
quality joints of meat such as Welsh leg of lamb, seasonal fruits, salads and vegetables, and Marine Stewardship Council certified fish fingers.”
Eden Foodservice has achieved continued improvements in uptake amongst pupils by providing menus that are packed with good, wholesome, delicious dishes with a contemporary twist that reflects current food trends. In addition, the company has  undertaken a range of initiatives to promote school meals to both pupils and parents.
It has supported themed study days, so that a menu ties in with a specific topic the children are learning about, whilst monthly promotions, fun days and competitions have all contributed to encouraging greater uptake.
Parent taster sessions have been held around the Borough often utilising the Eden Gazebo in the school playground (specifically purchased to deliver marketing opportunities) to engage with parents. Also introduced during the last 12 months to increase meal uptake has been the the Wicked Wok Chefs Theatre that gives pupils
an opportunity to see food prepared before their eyes.
Other initiatives include Summer Barbeques, Asian Fusion events and the introduction of Zip and Steam vegetable cooking to ensure that regeneration kitchens are able to cook fresh vegetables on site.
To keep Croydon at the forefront of school meal catering operations within the UK, Eden Foodservice works closely with Croydon Council to develop and implement innovative solutions that contribute to a high quality meal service and provide benefits to pupils, parents and schools. One such innovation was the groundbreaking e-Pay Cashless Schools Project, which was designed to create a cash-free environment by removing dinner money from Croydon schools.
During the academic year 2008/9, online dinner money collection climbed to more than £3.4m and further growth is expected during the current school year. The project has increased the safety of Croydon’s school children; vastly reduced the time spent on dinner money administration; increased the uptake of both paid and free school meals; and removed cash collection vehicles from the busy streets of Croydon.
When parents send the money directly to the schools it means the children must eat at school, improving their dietary health and allowing parents to monitor what their children
have eaten. Furthermore, removing the need for children to carry money enables them to walk the streets more safely, and the scheme has helped curb bullying. Eden Foodservice was involved in the development and implementation of the scheme, as well as employing a dedicated trainer to ensure there was no disruption at any of the schools involved when the system went live.
According to Lloyd, “Eden Foodservice has provided support and expertise to help ensure that projects are successfully delivered on time.
A recent example being the introduction of electronic meal payments within Croydon. As a member of the project board, Eden’s input from the service delivery perspective has been invaluable in helping to ensure the seamless introduction of tills into primary school
Eden Foodservice has undertaken a number of sustainability and healthy eating initiatives as an important part of the partnership. The combined hard work and dedication of the Eden Foodservice team and Croydon Council has resulted in a school meals infrastructure that delivers healthy and appealing menus using only the best available ingredients.
Eden Foodservice became the first contract catering company to achieve the prestigious Food for Life Partnership Silver Catering Mark for a group contract. The company had worked in partnership with Croydon Council to achieve the accreditation for 96 primary and special schools, recognising greater use of fresh, seasonal and organic ingredients including high welfare meat and sustainable fish.
This latest achievement builds on the Bronze accreditation, awarded to Eden Foodservice in 2009, which required at least 75 percent of all dishes to be freshly prepared on site. A detailed auditing process has been undertaken to ensure the company meets the necessary criteria for the Silver Mark, serving the required levels of local, organic and Fairtrade food. This includes Freedom Food chicken and free-range
eggs whilst avoiding fish that appears on the Marine Conservation Society “Fish to Avoid” list.
The Food for Life catering mark is a Soil Association accreditation scheme split into three tiers – bronze, silver and gold – to help leading caterers provide fresh, additive-free and responsible food to their customers. The catering mark logo appears on all Eden Foodservice menus in Croydon.
Eden Foodservice has been awarded Red Tractor status as part of its commitment to support British farming and ensure the use of high quality ingredients within all meals. It means that fresh meat that is used in Croydon schools is fully traceable from field to fork and has been produced to Red Tractor standards at every stage of the supply chain.

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